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Mr. Waldegrave: My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South- West (Mr. Budgen) asked the hon. Gentleman about his demands for further expenditure, which he has failed to answer. We have demonstrated how many billions of pounds flow into British agriculture from consumers and taxpayers. The hon. Gentleman says that, on top of all that, we must add further taxpayers' money. Surely an industry with that amount of underpinning and support can pay for its own training.

Dr. Strang: The valuable state expenditure on services such as state vets, of which the Minister has complete control, is being squeezed, but the expenditure that we want to cut has increased since 1979 by 180 per cent. in real terms. That expenditure is under the CAP in the United Kingdom. We want to slash two thirds of it. I shall explain that to the right hon. Gentleman in a few minutes.

Mr. Budgen: The hon. Gentleman damages himself by getting so over- excited. Let us take the example of a dairy farmer--this may be embarrassing to my right hon. Friend the Minister. Since the introduction of milk quotas, dairy farmers have been given a quota under the common agricultural policy that is worth about £2,000 per cow and rising. Some dairy farmers have retired and simply leased the quota. They have found themselves in a comfortable way of life. Such people do not need further subsidy so that their cowmen can be trained at the expense of the taxpayer, do they?

Dr. Strang: I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I do not want to digress for too long, but I shall make two points


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about quotas. First, the United Kingdom share of the total European Union milk quota is too small--I shall not go on about the increases that were given to Italy and Spain, for which I have already criticised the Government and I do not accept the Minister's defence--not because we do not have enough quota to meet our needs but because we are a relatively efficient producer of milk.

Quotas were introduced because there was a surplus of milk as a result of the CAP market support arrangements. We want those arrangements not merely tinkered with but eliminated. Intervention buying of skimmed milk powder and butter still occurs on the continent. Surely the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) understands that. We must have quotas because we have an overarching policy that drives up the price of milk and milk products, whether or not it can be justified by the market.

Mr. Budgen: Surely the hon. Gentleman realises that to most people outside the House the common agricultural policy is an utter nonsense and distortion. The hon. Gentleman looks at each point at which some slight reduction in state aid has taken place. He describes such reductions as a gross scandal and as taking the bread from an impoverished section of the community. We are meant to regard farmers in the same way as single mothers in a deprived area of Bristol or Wolverhampton. That is rubbish. The more that we examine the hon. Gentleman's proposals, the more it is obvious that he wants a great deal more money to be spent on agriculture.

Dr. Strang: I think I know what this is about. I shall not give way again. The hon. Gentleman is one of the Euro-sceptics. I have a document here entitled "Not a penny more". The hon. Gentleman's name is not on it, but two of his leading hon. Friends' names are on it. The document is clear. It makes a frontal attack on the CAP. It says:

"Under the Common Agricultural Policy only £40 out of every £100 reaches them. The rest of the agricultural subsidy is swallowed up by fraud, bureaucracy and huge food surpluses which are dumped on world markets at give-away prices."

I intend to make a proposal that will end that.

If the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West is to be true to the position that he has taken and vote accordingly, he should vote for our amendment. That also applies to his hon. Friends. They do not agree with me on most things, partly because I am Labour and they are Tory; everyone in the House of Commons knows that. We now understand that all these interventions are an attempt to justify the Euro-sceptics' intention not to vote in the way in which they have argued for the past few months.

The most important cuts are the slashing of expenditure on research and development. I accept that all the cuts took place before the right hon. Gentleman became Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The former Agriculture and Food Research Council has been replaced by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. The number of scientists was cut by 41 per cent. between 1979-80 and 1993-94. If we examine expenditure on research commissioned by the Ministry, we can see that Government-funded agricultural research and development has been slashed. We shall pay a long-term price for that. One of the reasons why we have had such a buoyant and successful agriculture industry over the past few decades is because of the investment that we have been prepared to make in that area.


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I am disappointed by the way in which the Minister sought to present the figures for expenditure on the CAP and, as a consequence, I shall say a little more about them. In 1978-79 CAP expenditure in the UK was £337 million, and the projected figure for 1995-96 is £2, 873 million--an increase of 180 per cent. in real terms. I take the year 1995-96 because the price proposals that we are discussing relate to the coming agricultural year. To suggest that there is some great success story here is misleading.

I shall give one or two more statistics that I had not intended to give, because we must nail this matter. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but he said that the 1994 outturn of the total European Union agricultural budget is lower than the 1993 outturn. In reality, total expenditure under the CAP has been ratcheted up year in, year out. I shall quote one or two statistics that I have converted into sterling from ecus. They are rough figures and I am prepared to concede plus or minus 10 per cent. The total CAP expenditure in 1980 was just over £7,000 million; in 1985, it was just over £12,000 million; in 1990, it was just over £19,000 million; and in 1994, it was just over £30,000 million. That 1994 figure is projected; the actual outturn may be somewhat lower. Even if the 1994 figure were just £27,000 million, it is still a huge ball-park increase. The projected figure for 1995 is more than £30,000 million.

Mr. Waldegrave: There is nothing more sterile than bickering about statistics, but they are important, as the hon. Gentleman says. Between 1974 and 1979, expenditure from FEOGA increased by 61 per cent. in real terms. Between 1974 and 1979, expenditure from FEOGA increased by 38 per cent. in real terms.

Dr. Strang: My final quote is from a letter for which I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Stevenson). The Minister's figures are flawed and I shall come back to them. The letter, dated 6 February, was from the Minister to my hon. Friend, and it said:

"You request confirmation of the rate of increase in CAP expenditure between 1991-92 and 1995-96. Expenditure at 1991 was 31.9 billion ecu"--

so let us say 32 billion ecu, to round it up--

"while the 1995 CAP budget has been set at 37.9 billion ecu"-- so we could say roughly 38 billion ecu, an increase of 6 billion ecu. [Interruption.] Those are huge figures. Do not hon. Members realise that the expenditure was a fraction of that a number of years ago? The right hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave) sought to argue in his letter that that was no longer a problem and that CAP expenditure was under control.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Michael Jack): Oh, no

Dr. Strang: Oh, yes. That is the impression that he sought to give.

Mr. Waldegrave rose --

Dr. Strang: If the right hon. Gentleman is about to qualify that, I shall be delighted.

Mr. Waldegrave: I am not about to qualify it other than to say that that is not what I said at all. I pointed out--the oil tanker is shifting-- that there was a 61 per cent. increase in real terms under Labour and a 38 per


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cent. increase over the whole period of this Government. What is significant is that between 1988 and 1994, it has increased by only 1 per cent., so the change is moving in the right direction.

Dr. Strang: The right hon. Gentleman is misleading the House--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman might like to rephrase that.

Dr. Strang: I accept that he is inadvertently misleading the House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The use of the word "misleading" is not acceptable.

Dr. Strang: No problem; I withdraw it.

I do not dispute the increase in expenditure between 1974 and 1979. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) pointed out, that was a period of transition. I do not say that it was satisfactory, but we were moving from not being in the CAP to being fully in it. I challenge the Minister's figures for the real-terms increase in CAP spending, but he may have tried to exclude some countries and compensate for the enlargement of the European Union. If so, he should say so.

Mr. Waldegrave indicated dissent .

Dr. Strang: Let me move on.

Mr. Gary Streeter (Plymouth, Sutton): Will the hon. Gentleman help the House by saying exactly where his figures come from?

Dr. Strang: My figures have only two sources: first, Government documents--the Government publish figures not just on their own spending but on European Union spending--and most of the figures that I quoted are from that source, including the letter from the Minister of State; secondly, the last two figures that I gave are from a European Union document and I converted those from ecus to sterling.

Mr. Waldegrave: I have given the hon. Gentleman and the House figures derived from the Ministry in good faith, and I believe that they are right. If, as a result of the hon. Gentleman's amateur arithmetic, he turns out to have accused me wrongly--he backed down from accusing me of misleading the House only under pressure--will he apologise to me?

Dr. Strang: If the figures that the right hon. Gentleman gave are a fair representation of what has happened in relation to CAP expenditure, of course I shall apologise. I cannot understand this exchange because everyone sitting in this House of Commons knows that CAP expenditure has increased massively in the past few years. There is no dispute about that.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman: It is slowing down.

Dr. Strang: It has slowed down for only one year. Even the hon. Lady must understand that the MacSharry proposals reduced the price effect of the CAP on the continent--less in the UK because of devaluation--but it did not alter the cost of the CAP to the taxpayer. On the


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contrary, MacSharry would always have increased the cost of the CAP to the taxpayer and everyone acknowledged that at the time. I am happy to make it clear that the Labour party wants an end to state intervention buying of agricultural commodities. We want an end to subsidising agricultural exports, which is some two thirds of CAP expenditure. The Minister spoke a great deal about fraud. Anyone who knows anything about fraud knows that the vast bulk of it derives from surpluses and the huge quantities of agricultural produce in store. Above all, it derives from the huge payments that are made to traders when they move produce across international frontiers. Interestingly, the examples of fraud that the right hon. Gentleman gave all related to the payment of export refunds and some related to agricultural commodities that had been taken into intervention. I emphasise that we want an end to that system of market support. We do not want an end to supporting our agricultural industry, but intervention buying and export subsidies should go.

I want to deal with the relationship between those subsidies and fraud, because if we ended that relationship we would tackle fraud. I must ask the House to put up with a long, important quotation from the head of the division of the audit guarantee section of FEOGA. He is a senior official of the Court of Auditors and is involved in the audit of all the market support money in relation to the CAP. He gave evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities, which, like our own Select Committee on Agriculture, provides a lot of valuable information to everyone interested in agriculture. That senior official was interviewed about fraud and he said:

"Another example deals with agricultural expenditure. When considering export refunds (the export refund total amount this year would be about 8- 10 billion ecu, which is substantial) the background of spending this money is the surplus of agricultural production in the European Community. To simplify, you could say that one wants to get rid of those surpluses; of course, not at any cost, but the Commission is pushing to get rid of the surpluses. Now we go in the same direction: the Commission wants to get rid of the surpluses; the Member States try to execute a policy to pay for the export refund; and the beneficiaries, the traders or manufacturers, play their role. It all gears into the same direction: spending the money. Of course, it does not mean that all traders would manipulate it. Not all transactions are fraud, but the problem is you create a kind of climate where, let us say, a little bit of a fiddle is more or less accepted. One should not be too critical of the traders because it could hamper trade; it could make it difficult to get rid of the surpluses. In such a climate you stimulate fraud, and that is a structural problem."

Let me repeat that final sentence:

"In such a climate you stimulate fraud, and that is a structural problem."

The Minister may appoint as many bureaucrats as he likes to tackle fraud and we may have all the satellite surveillance to which the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) referred, but one will never end that fraud when such huge subsidies are paid on large volumes of produce that are traded across international frontiers. That is why the Opposition believe that we should get rid of agricultural export subsidies and state intervention buying. The Opposition have enunciated that policy for some time.

The Government's motion takes the biscuit. After all the fraud and the record of wasteful expenditure, it calls on the House to congratulate


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"the Government on its robust negotiating stance on the Common Agricultural Policy since 1979, its leading role in achieving reform of the CAP, its continuing pressure for further radical reform" and so on. That is an insult to the intelligence of the House. That is a criticism not of the right hon. Gentleman but of his predecessors. We all remember what his predecessor but one, now Secretary of State for the Environment, said when the Labour party attacked the MacSharry reforms as being hopelessly inadequate. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr.

Campbell-Savours) he said:

"The hon. Gentleman has not grasped the fact that British Ministers have won their battles in the European Community and that the CAP reform is designed on what Britain wanted. There was no single major element of our negotiating list that we failed to secure in those negotiations."--[ Official Report , 25 March 1993; Vol. 221, c. 1228.]

That is what the then Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said less than two years ago.

What about the current Minister's immediate predecessor, now Secretary of State for Education? As I said last year, she had a great reputation as the voice of the Norfolk barley barons in the Agriculture Council. She tinkered with and argued about little concessions on set-aside, but made not the slightest attempt to reform the CAP radically.

The right hon. Gentleman has been in office for only a few months. He has appointed a committee of intelligent men and women--no doubt they are enlightened people--to consider the CAP. We will need a lot more than that if we are to tackle the enormity of the wasteful expenditure inherent in the CAP.

The Opposition's amendment to the motion is quite clear, because it states:

"that the CAP continues to fail consumers . . . and that the Government is not doing enough"

to change it. I have spelt out the radical changes that we would like to be made to the CAP, so the choice is clear. I urge this honourable House to vote for our amendment.

6.4 pm

Mr. Peter Atkinson (Hexham): The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) is right that the terms of the Opposition amendment are clear. But what did he say in his speech, which lasted for about 40 minutes, about how the Opposition propose to reform the CAP? I made a few notes of his speech and although he argued that radical reform was necessary, his only attempt at reform was to launch a diatribe on fraud.

We all agree that fraud should be tackled, but the hon. Gentleman devoted the rest of his speech to an arcane argument about various figures and criticised the Government for abolishing the Agricultural Trading Board, the state veterinary service and so on. My hon. Friends and I had expected the hon. Gentleman to provide us with some details of what the Opposition propose to do to reform the CAP--some of my hon. Friends might even have agreed with him. Apart from his attack on fraud, however, we were not offered one Opposition reform.

Mr. Budgen: My hon. Friend is rather unfair. Surely it is plain that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) proposed to make the CAP even more expensive. He offered considerable aid from the taxpayer to large sections of the agricultural community, many of which are doing quite well.


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Mr. Atkinson: I agree entirely.

In recent months, we have had several debates on agriculture. Farmers throughout the country will listen to today's debate and I am sure that they thought that they would, at last, learn about what the Opposition propose for British farming. I suspect that other hon. Members are as baffled as I am about the Opposition's intentions. The Government deserve congratulations on what they have done to turn the titanic CAP around. [Hon. Members:-- "It is early days."] I accept that, but the farming community can live with the Government's measured approach. We marched the farming sector up the hill in 1947 to make it farm in a particular way, so if, towards the end of the century, we are to march it down again, we must do it in a way that does not bankrupt farmers and ruin British agriculture. Farm incomes have improved and although not all sectors of farming are prosperous, farmers have been able to invest properly to restructure in order to face the full rigours of moving closer to the world market in future years.

The Government deserve credit, because my right hon. Friend has done a great deal to make the CAP more workable and has made it easier for farmers to adjust to the new regime.

It will be enormously complicated for British farming to move closer to world market prices. The proposed United States Farm Bill is important because we must be aware of what is happening in other parts of the world. GATT has become much more significant to Britain, in addition to the CAP, so we can no longer say that we are alone in Europe. We must bear in mind overseas pressures and the further developments in other countries.

Agra Europe magazine has considered the implications of the United States Farm Bill. If the Republican Senate is successful in removing set-aside from American farms, the amount of cereals produced in America will increase to such an extent that it could lead to 25 per cent. of British cereal farmers going out of business. British agriculture must be in a strong position to face such world competition.

One issue on which the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East did not dwell, on which I hoped that he would dwell more fully, was that of hill farms, which is important for me as I have a hill farming constituency. He did talk for a second about the problems that confront hill farmers, of which there are many, but he did not discuss the issue of animal welfare and animal exports; he said that he would leave it to the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), who will sum up for the Opposition. That issue is of extreme importance to hill farmers and livestock farmers because any unilateral decision to do anything about the export of animals or the transport of animals will have a devastating effect on their income. My hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) asked what would happen if a great many dairy bulls came on to the market to be raised for meat. He called them horrible Holsteins, which I think is extremely unfair, but it gives an idea of the problems that could confront hill farmers who rear, as it were, proper beef, in all those markets if those dairy bulls were not exported and instead came on to the market to be fattened. That is of enormous significance to hill farmers, yet not a word did we hear about what the Labour party proposed to do about that.


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Mr. Streeter: Does my hon. Friend agree that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) said three times during his speech that he would come to a certain issue later, and failed each time to get anywhere near that issue?

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman: Surely he always does that.

Mr. Atkinson: I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Streeter), and that is why I was disappointed with the speech by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East. He was very good. He whizzed around the Dispatch Box and shouted and became quite excited at one stage, but we did not hear that he proposed to do anything radical.

Mr. Gill: I am grateful that my hon. Friend listened to my intervention in the Minister's speech. Does he recognise that the fact that so many of those animals are undesirable for the beef industry, and much else that goes on in the agricultural industry, is as a result of the regime? It is not as a result of a farmer taking a proper commercial decision in terms of supplying a real market or of supplying a customer. So much of the decision-making by the farmer is influenced by the intervention regime and the common agricultural policy, rather than by the customer. We have to return to consideration of the customer.

Mr. Atkinson: I agree entirely with that. I believe that we cannot get to where my hon. Friend wants to go, which is where I think that most Conservative Members want to go, unless we do it in a slow and measured way. That is why I argue in support of the Government and the way in which they have tried to restructure the common agricultural policy; I hope and believe that that is the way to get to where the hon. Gentleman wants to go.

Repatriation was mentioned by one of my hon. Friends on the Conservative Back Benches. I believe that a repatriation of those decisions would be extremely damaging for British farming. Although it is superficially attractive, it would succeed in closing off an important market, especially an important export market for livestock, which is important to hill farmers such as those in my constituency.

Mr. Budgen: That depends, does it not, on the overall relationship that we are likely to achieve with Europe if we achieve, at the next intergovernmental conference, a significant loosening in our relations with the European Union. We hope that we will be able to loosen the common agricultural policy and at the same time retain our right to trade with the countries in the European Union. The hill farmers in my hon. Friend's constituency should be all right in a well-negotiated settlement of that type.

Mr. Atkinson: I am always rather worried about giving way to the hon. Gentleman because I know that he will lob something complex at me, as I suspect that he has done this time. Currently, as far as hill farmers or livestock farmers throughout the United Kingdom are concerned, the European Community is an important source of exports, one hopes of deadstock, but also of some livestock. Therefore I fear that to move to a policy of repatriation would erect more barriers to free trade because other European Union countries such as France and Spain would spend more money subsidising their agriculture than the United Kingdom would and therefore we would be at a competitive disadvantage.


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Mr. Marlow: I am sorry. My hon. Friend is a very intelligent man, but he has been misled by our right hon. Friend the Minister.

Mr. Tyler: Misled!

Mr. Marlow: I apologise. I withdraw that remark. He has drawn the wrong conclusion.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would withdraw it formally.

Mr. Marlow: I have certainly formally withdrawn it. I am afraid that my hon. Friend has drawn the wrong conclusions from what my right hon. Friend the Minister said. There is this great fear that, if we had a level playing field in Europe--if we traded in agricultural commodities, as in everything else in Europe, without let or hindrance--the other Europeans would subsidise what we would not subsidise. The fact is that at the moment we make a net contribution of £3 billion to the European Community each year. If we were not part of the common agricultural policy, we would be able to keep £2 billion of that cash in our own pockets. That would be more than enough to keep our farmers in the way to which they have become accustomed.

Mr. Budgen: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is the word, "misleading" an unparliamentary word, because it does--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I understand the question. [Interruption.] Order. the question was quite clear. The answer, in the context in which it was given, is yes.

Mr. Atkinson: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am obviously becoming a target for a different debate. It brings me to my last argument, because I know that many other hon. Members wish to speak. We must continue to push for reform of the common agricultural policy because, by the end of the century, we must allow our farming industry to become more ready to meet the world market that it has to meet.

Listening to my hon. Friends firing shots at me about Europe, I am reminded of what the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East said. He said, in an appeal to Members on the Conservative side of the House, that perhaps they should vote for the Labour amendment. When he said that, it revealed the intention behind the amendment because it is not about British farming; it is not about a Labour policy for British agriculture. It is trying to set a little snare--if that is not an unfashionable word, Mr. Deputy Speaker--to catch a few votes from the Conservative side of the House in order to make some cheap party political points in the debate that will follow tonight. I believe that such a serious debate about the future of British agriculture should be treated more seriously by members of the Opposition. 6.16 pm

Mr. George Stevenson (Stoke-on-Trent, South): The hallmarks of the European Commission proposals that we are debating are complacency in action and chronic uncertainty. Having listened to the Secretary of State's speech, I am afraid that the Government appear to have taken the same attitude. However, while we have that


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complacency, inaction and uncertainty we have remorseless cost increases. I shall return to that subject later.

The 1995-96 price proposals from the Commission are best described as the "no change proposals". Nothing is proposed for the sugar regime; nothing is proposed about milk quotas; nothing is proposed about beef; nothing is proposed about sheep; nothing is proposed about wine. One could go on and on. Yet we are asked by the Government to give our support to the general thrust of the Commission's proposals.

We have here a classic European Commission ploy. It paints a rosy picture overall, but when one gets down to the detail and the fundamentals of the position confronting us, one obtains a different picture altogether.

Indeed, so complacent is the Commission--and, apparently, the Government-- that it says in the documentation that accompanies the proposals that it has no intention of promoting further fundamental reform. I find that staggering. It is, at the very least, a cause of disappointment that the Secretary of State did not even mention tonight the fact that apparently the European Commission has no intention of making further fundamental reform. In other words, he was saying that the MacSharry reforms were successful--I do not really think that there is a Member of the House who would accept that--and that that is the basis on which agriculture in the European Community should proceed into the next century. That is not only nonsense, but very dangerous nonsense.

The Secretary of State spent some time discussing agricultural issues in his speech. He mentioned consumers and I will check Hansard to establish whether he mentioned taxpayers. However, I am absolutely sure that during his 45-minute speech--even taking into account interventions--he did not once mention rural areas. That is a significant omission to which I shall return later.

It is apparent to everyone--except presumably the Commission and Her Majesty's Government--that, if for no reason other than the future enlargement of the European Union, the CAP as it is presently structured simply cannot survive. That very important point must be underlined in the debate. I agreed with the Secretary of State when he said that the current CAP proposals represent a serious lost opportunity.

The issue of cost has so far occupied much time during the debate. The Commission's attitude towards CAP costs, speeches by Government Ministers, and documentation and letters that hon. Members have received from the Ministry reveal that the agricultural guidelines, of which much mention has been made, started out as a mechanism for exercising at least some control over the runaway costs of common agricultural expenditure. It was thought that, allied with other instruments, it would be an effective means of exercising some control.

The agricultural guidelines were viewed in that way for the first few years of their existence. Although I believe that they are far too generous, they were set in the main by member states who had a vested interest in ensuring that they were set at a high enough level so as not to prevent the remorseless increases in agricultural expenditure.

I suspect--and everything that Government spokesmen have said justifies my concern--that the agricultural guidelines have shifted from being a control mechanism


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to being viewed as a target. No matter what we do, if we stay within the agricultural guidelines we are okay. Thus, by some magical wave of the wand, agricultural expenditure is "controlled". That appears to be the European Commission's attitude and the Government have swallowed it whole. I intend to produce information to substantiate that claim.

According to that logic, massive cost increases are justified if they fall within the outrageously generous guidelines. People emanate smug satisfaction when they say, "Why do you criticise increases in CAP expenditure when we are within the guidelines?"--guidelines which are extremely generous and which I suspect are being treated as a target. The Government have adopted the Commission's view and I believe that we should challenge it.

Mr. Paul Marland (Gloucestershire, West): Will the hon. Gentleman reflect a little on his own experience in the European Court. He knows that our Minister is responsible for only a small amount of the annual expenditure on agriculture in this country and that any reductions in expenditure elsewhere must be arranged in co-operation with our European partners. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could draw on his experience and, rather than criticising the current arrangements, tell us how the Minister could constructively arrange a better deal than the present one.

Mr. Stevenson: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's intervention, and I will return to that point later in my contribution. However, I must set the record straight: I have never been a member of the European Court; nor have I appeared before it. Unfortunately, the Government hold the record for the number of times that they have been dragged before the European Court over a variety of issues. I am sure that the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland) recognises that we must not be fooled by the siren voices which say: first, agricultural expenditure is under control when it clearly is not; and, secondly, because it is within the guidelines, it is all right. We must challenge those views and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will join me in doing so.

Mr. Gill: Is the hon. Gentleman confident that his views will be supported by other Agriculture Ministers in the Community? In asking that question, I am mindful of the words of a former Chancellor of the Exchequer in this place who said that, when he raised the question of fraud in the Economic and Finance Council, everyone reached for their newspapers; they were not interested in reducing the amount of money that is lost through fraudulent practices.

Mr. Stevenson: I am not sure what support my views may enjoy among other members of the European Community. I have not yet tested my views to that extent; although I floated them during my term in the European Parliament. I am not even sure whether my views have widespread support on these shores. However, I am certain that the present British Government's attitude stands no chance of gaining the support necessary to secure fundamental reform of the common agricultural


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policy. While the attitude of smug satisfaction prevails, the consumer and the taxpayer will continue to be subjected to financial mugging.

Mr. Marland: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?


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